WASHINGTON - "Bo-flakes" featuring the first dog and ornaments fashioned from zippers are among the new twists on traditional favourites at the White House this Christmas season.
First lady Michelle Obama unveiled this year's decorations before an appreciative crowd of military families Wednesday, then spent some time doing holiday crafts with military kids.
The theme for this year's decorations is "Joy to All," but first dog Bo seems to steals the show.
There are 40 "Bo-flake" ornaments throughout the White House that feature cutout images of the dog.
There's a life-size replica of the dog, with a string of lights in his mouth, in the East Garden Room.
And there's an outsized statue of the Portuguese water dog next to the 300-pound (136-kilogram) gingerbread house in the State Dining Room.
Mrs. Obama said that reflects Bo's high standing at the White House.
"He's almost as big as the house," she declared. "He is such a huge personality."
Visitors also will get a Bo bookmark that sends them on a scavenger hunt for "Bo-ornaments" stashed in eight rooms.
Bo himself made an appearance during Wednesday's festivities, sporting a jingle bell collar, and was quickly swarmed by young guests.
This year's decorations include lots of handmade items that could easily be done at home, including patriotic wreaths and ornaments wrapped in red, white and blue yarn to fit with Mrs. Obama's emphasis on supporting military families.
The gargantuan gingerbread house, however, is not a feat for amateurs to attempt: It contains more than 175 pounds of gingerbread and modified gingerbread and more than 50 pounds (22 kilograms) of chocolate. Pastry chef Bill Yosses mixed up a combination of wheat, rye and white-flour gingerbread that mimics the colour of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the house was first painted white.
More than 90,000 visitors are expected to pass through the White House this holiday season.
Executive chef Cristeta Comerford said she's drawing on the recipes in Mrs. Obama's gardening book, "American Grown," as she prepares food for all the guests. The treats will include sweet potato quick bread, green beans with almonds and a winter salad featuring fennel.
The massive decorating job — there are 54 live Christmas trees in the White House — comes together in just five days, with the help of 85 volunteers from around the country. This year's volunteers included Nellie Funk, a military wife from Carlisle, Pa., who was working beside retired homicide detective Tracy Jacobson from Southern California.
Asked which job was more fun — detective or decorator — Jacobson deadpanned: "This has been much more fun."